NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Saturday’s wet and wintry weather was being blamed for an array of underground problems in the outer boroughs, where firefighters were called to several manhole explosions.

As CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported, Con Edison and National Grid were playing a game of Whack-A-Mole with several manhole fires across Brooklyn and Queens. In East Flatbush, one such fire was especially dangerous due to its proximity to a utility pole that was holding up wiring.

Manhole fire in East Flatbush. (credit: CBS2)

Flames shot through a pair of manholes on Remson Avenue as utility and FDNY crews worked to contain the fires. Nearby, the children of one elderly woman helped her out of her home, claiming it wasn’t safe to stay.

“I heard popping and popping and when I came outside I seen fire coming from the manhole,” one of the children said.

ConEd reported nearly 1,000 power outages across Brooklyn and Queens due to the fires, and say the weather was to blame. Officials say fires can occur when a mixture of snow and road salt wash into manholes which house one of the oldest underground electrical systems in the country.

As the insulation on underground cables burns away, it gives off a combustible gas which can lead to a fire or even an explosion.

On Thursday, three cars were damaged after a manhole exploded in Crown Heights. In Dyker Heights, a manhole explosion and transformer fire knocked out power along 10th Avenue.

In Fall 2017, ConEd installed sensors in manholes across the city. The devices detect heat and carbon monoxide given off by damaged cables, and send a warning alerting engineers who can then make repairs before an explosion occurs.

It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the manholes which exploded on Saturday had those sensors installed. ConEd says they’ll be working through the night and into Sunday morning to make any necessary repairs.


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